Pigeon Forge playground will serve special-needs kids

Apr. 17, 2014 @ 11:52 PM

The Pigeon Forge Rotary Club hosted a dedication Wednesday to mark the start of construction for an all-inclusive playground in the Wear Farm City Park. It will include equipment designed specifically for physically and mentally disabled children.

Representatives from the Rotary Club, the city of Pigeon Forge and the Forever Parks Foundation spoke at the dedication, and many families with special-needs children were at the park for the dedication.

"These children are our future," Pigeon Forge Mayor David Wear said. "This is a project that means a lot to the city of Pigeon Forge."

Jerry Wear of the Rotary Club said he hopes the playground will be open within a year. The Rotary donated $100,000, one-third of the $300,000 total goal for the park.

"This project will fill a need to serve all our children under the age of 14 with special needs, and all others," he said. "This will be a place where the handicapped children, their parents, friends and other children can socialize, exercise and have fun together."

Simon Bradbury of the Pigeon Forge Parks and Recreation Department and the Forever Parks Foundation shared a story about his father, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

"My father has always had a saying: 'Never let it be said,'" Bradbury said. "It means never give up. He has to work to stand up. He'll fall down, and if that was me, I would give up. But he doesn't. He is the most inspiring person I know."

Bradbury said donors can dedicate items of park equipment, such as benches, in the memory of loved ones. These donations would go directly toward the playground.

"I'm so excited, I can't express it," Bradbury said.

Kim Hembree, a teacher of special needs children at Pigeon Forge Middle School, said that when she was approached about the project, she was excited about the possibilities and wanted to see it become a reality as soon as possible.

"This park will be an amazing thing for these kids," she said. "It will change their lives and future. We all deserve the opportunity to do what everyone else is doing."

Ben Clabo, principal of Pigeon Forge High School, said the playground could have a wide-ranging impact. "This is important, not just for the schools, but for the entire community," Clabo said.

Following the dedication, a sign was unveiled at what will be the site of the playground, and everyone at the park was treated to a picnic lunch.

To find out more about the Forever Parks Foundation and to make a donation toward the all-inclusive playground, visit foreverparks.com.

jold@themountainpress.com